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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

Radley Balko reacts to the Pentagon plan that would have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe.

I predict that while now couched in terms of the necessity for a ready response to a cataclysmic terrorist attack, within five years there will be calls to use these forces for less urgent matters, such as crowd control at political conventions, natural disaster response, border control, and, inevitably, some components of the drug war (looking for marijuana in the national parks, for example).

I completely agree. Not all government measures are necessarily prone to the slippery-slope effect. Effective and unambiguous boundaries — such as constitutional rights supplemented by tough laws — can indeed limit the scope of state action. Unfortunately, this particular plan is precisely the kind that will become a monster. If domestic laws were different, victimless crimes legalized, an expanded right to privacy enshrined in the constitution, civil liberties protected strongly, things may have been different. But in the current setup, any measure that further militarizes domestic security must be opposed. We don’t need more armored tanks in the hands of the police.

National security and public interest have always been the favourite phrases of those who advocate increased state power. Yes, security is important. But at what cost?

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The terrorists killed over a hundred innocent people yesterday. This wasn’t an act that took place in some distant part of the world. It happened in a city I care about, one that I have spent four summers in and where many of my friends live or have family. The attack was astounding in its scope and daring — no suicide bombers this time around but machine gun wielding militants taking hostages in posh hotels. The country is outraged and for good reason.

Yet, and yet. This is just a small thing compared to what could and looks likely to happen now. There are calls for much tougher anti-terrorism laws, possibly more draconian than what the US introduced after 9/11. In a poll conducted today by an Indian newspaper, 95% supported such measures. If laws like these are passed, the Indian police will relish in using them. Thousands of people will be rounded up on mere suspicion, many of those unrelated to terror. Some will be locked up for months, perhaps years. Phones will be tapped, due process suspended. You are thinking, all of that won’t happen to me. And you may be right, but rest assured that it will happen to many people just like you. It is when this atmosphere of panic and police-statism takes over our nation that the terrorists will have truly won this one.

QI hits the nail on the head:

The easiest reaction in a situation like this is to call for tougher laws, all of which aim to circumvent the adherence to due process. Due process anyway gets short shrift here in India, and do we really want to legitimise that? […]Shouldn’t better investigation, more co-ordination and better training be looked at first, instead of giving the police arbitrary powers to harass citizens? […] I am just terrified by the knowledge that by bringing in such laws, we have pretty much capitulated to terrorism – their objective of destroying the civil and democratic fabric of India will have been achieved. And contrary to what people feel, these won’t be effective deterrents. Simply because, in my mind, they do not address the root of the problems plaguing our law-enforcement esablishments.

He is right. The Indian police and intelligence agencies suffer from severe deficiencies. They need to be revamped. There needs to be better training, coordination and other changes. But these will have to smart changes. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions here. The deterrence value of laws that suspend due process is small and costs to essential freedoms huge. The Indian establishment could do much worse than read Bruce Shneier’s excellent blog on security measures to get some pointers.

A heavy handed law that curtails civil liberties will be a tragedy far greater than any terror attack. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” We should keep this in mind and fight to preserve the intangible things that are truly valuable, even as we take measures to prevent such atrocities from happening again.

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Britain is getting spookily close to the world Orwell described.

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At least thirty-seven people are dead in a series of horrific blasts in Ahmedabad, India.

Iran is going to hang thirty people tomorrow.

At first sight, the situations look dissimilar. The people dead in Ahmedabad are innocent victims of terror, their lives snuffed out brutally and callously by vengeful terrorists. The Iranians who will die tomorrow have undergone a trial according to the laws of their land and their executions will be lawful affairs handled by dignified government officials.

Yet, as the CNN report makes it clear, quite a few of the Iranians who have been sentenced to death are simply guilty of “being a public nuisance while drunk (or) being involved in illegal relationships — relationships between men and women who are not married to each other.”

Makes me wonder if the cloak of government authority really makes their deaths any more legitimate.

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This one is by former U.S. surgeon general Richard Carmona:

As we look to the future and where childhood obesity will be in 20 years … it is every bit as threatening to us as is the terrorist threat we face today. It is the terrorist threat from within.

Kerry Howley’s reaction to the above is funny:

I’m not sure whether we should be more or less afraid of the “War on Terror” now that the phrase terrorist threat means “bad thing.”

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I have always feared that if elected, John McCain would be an even more authoritarian chief executive than George W. Bush. Particularly worrying is his disregard for privacy and free speech, especially when it conflicts (in his world-view) with national security.

The latest statement issued by McCain’s campaign proves that these fears are justified. Here’s an excerpt:

N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. […]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

(Link via Boing Boing)

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From the TOI pages:

The city police have registered a case of sedition and conspiracy against The Times of India, the editor of its Ahmedabad edition, a correspondent and a photographer on the basis of a complaint from the newly-appointed city police commissioner, O P Mathur.

Mathur’s complaint comes in response to a series of documented investigative reports published by the paper, questioning his competence to guarantee the security of the people of Ahmedabad, which is high on the hit list of terrorists.

Hmph. I didn’t even know there was an entire section of the Indian penal code that deals with “sedition.” And apparently in Gujarat it can be used to stop newspapers from publishing stuff the cops don’t like. Wow. One learns new things every day.

On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the cop thinks free speech is a Pakistani concept.

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